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McConnell Ready for 'First Step' on Obamacare Repeal as Trump Criticizes Senate GOPs

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) walks into the Senate Chamber at the Capitol on July 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has set a procedural vote for Tuesday to advance the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare, as President Trump declared at a White House event with families that “Senate Republicans have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.”

“The first step this time, the first vote we will soon take, is on whether or not to begin the debate at all. I believe my mandate from the people of Kentucky is to vote yes. And I certainly intend to do so. I know many colleagues feel the same. I know many of us have waited years for this moment to finally arrive. And, at long last, it finally has,” McConnell said on the Senate floor today. “I would urge every colleague to join me. I know many have ideas on how to improve healthcare. Some of these ideas have real potential.”

A week ago, the most recent version of the Senate’s repeal-and-replace plan was dead in the water as Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had all pledged to vote against a motion to proceed.

McConnell said he intended to push for straight Obamacare repeal this week with a replacement in two years. Trump originally said Obamacare could just fail and Congress should move on to other agenda items, but quickly changed course and began lobbying lawmakers in earnest to pass a repeal bill.

“For the last seven years, Republicans have been united and standing up for Obamacare’s victims. Remember repeal and replace, repeal and replace? They kept saying it over and over again. Every Republican running for office promised immediate relief from this disastrous law,” Trump said today, adding the Senate “is very close to the votes it needs to pass a replacement.”

“The Senate bill that is being considered outside of the outright repeal of Obamacare will also provide emergency relief for the law’s victims, and it will deliver truly great healthcare and healthcare reforms that our citizens want, need, and really should be demanding — some are demanding. You’ll see that at the voter booth, believe me,” he said.

Opponents of the bill, Trump added, “run out, they say, death, death, death. Well, Obamacare is death. That’s the one that’s death. And besides that, it’s failing so you won’t have it anyway.”

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, which is what it is,” the president said.

McConnell said that the “only way we’ll have the opportunity to consider ideas is if Senators are allowed to offer and debate them” by voting to open the amendment process.

“That means voting to kick off a robust debate in which Senators from all parties can represent the views of their constituents,” he said. “It means voting to proceed. And that will occur tomorrow.”

Collins said Sunday that she hadn’t received a call from Trump lobbying her to change her mind on repeal. Asked today if the White House will have Lee’s vote this time, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price responded that they “look forward to having at least 50 votes in the Senate, and the vice president will be there, obviously, tomorrow in order to break a tie if there is a tie.”

“But you can’t begin to solve this challenge and crisis of Obamacare without voting to proceed on the legislation and having the debate,” Price added.

Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters today that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who recently underwent an emergency procedure to remove a blood clot and was diagnosed with cancer, was discussing with his doctors whether he would be able to fly out for the vote, but Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he didn’t expect that to happen.

Asked last week if “some people want to know the plan before the vote,” Cornyn replied, “Yeah, but it’s a luxury we don’t have.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) referenced that remark in a floor speech today: “We are potentially one or two days away from a vote on a bill that would reorganize one sixth of the American economy, impacting tens of millions of American lives – and no one knows what it is! It’s sort of like Alice in Wonderland around here.”

“Every single version of their repeal and replace bill is rotten at the core. Repeal without replace is even worse,” he said. “…It’s time to start over. It’s time go back to the drawing board – abandon tax cuts for the wealthy, abandon cuts to Medicaid, abandon repeal and run – and come together, both parties, around a set of non-ideological proposals to improve our healthcare system.”

“That’s what we Democrats want to do. I’ve called several Republicans – some in their leadership are saying ‘oh, Leader Schumer doesn’t want people to talk to each other and won’t let that happen if the bill fails.’ Well, first, I couldn’t prevent it if I wanted to, but second, I don’t want to. I want us to sit down and come up with improving ACA. No one said it’s perfect!”